Thursday, April 1, 2010

School visits and "visits"

Kids don't care if you're what we SCBWI members call "pre-published," which is how I've twice landed the role of "visiting children's poet" in elementary classrooms in New York's Capital Region. It also helps that my sister Leora was student teaching in both the classrooms.

Since I am Boston-based, the first visit took place over Skype. The connection wasn't perfect and Leora had to do some translating, but having a teacher on a giant screen was a novelty for her second graders (and I resisted the temptation to boom out, "I am the great and powerful Oz!") I read a hyperbolic poem about cold weather and a descriptive poem about thunderstorms, and we talked about using the five senses in descriptions, which the students then did ably in a class poem about oceans. We also had a Q&A session about writing, poetry, and whatever else was on the students' minds, complete with debate on whether or not Leora and I look alike. (The question has never been settled.)

Today, since I'm in Albany for Passover, I got to kick off National Poetry Month with an in-person visit to Leora's new student teaching placement. After her kindergarteners came in from recess and sang some songs, we discussed what they already knew about what poems are. Since I'd been thinking during the songs about how songs are a kind of poetry, I was delighted that one of the students made that connection, too. We read a poem about spring with lots of personification, and the students pointed out things in the poem that couldn't really happen and also highlighted their sight words (and these kids have a lot of sight words!). We also read a poem about animal and human movements, which the students acted out, adding suggestions of their own. Afterwards, they illustrated both poems; hopping bunnies were a common motif.

Writers, if you can do a school visit, I highly recommend it. There's nothing like kids to make me feel like a real, live poet!

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